War Dogs 04

Contract Working Dogs Mazzie sit for a photo in owners Jim and Linda Crismer's Fruit Heights backyard on Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2019. The Vietnam Veterans of America Northern Utah Chapter is raising funds to get a statue to honor Vietnam War Dogs next to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Layton. The statue will be modeled after Mazzie who served in Kuwait for 5 years.

LAYTON — The sculptor who will create the War Dog Memorial Statue in Layton is a Russian immigrant with dozens of monuments to her credit around the world, including the Utah Law Enforcement Memorial at the state Capitol.

Lena Toritch’s portfolio of hero dog sculptures drew the attention of Linda and Jim Crismer of Fruit Heights, who are raising funds for the bronze statue to be placed next to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Layton Commons Park.

“It’s such a great project,” Toritch said in an interview. “I feel honored to be a part of this prestigious project honoring our brave K9 heroes.”

Toritch said she specializes in memorials for military and law enforcement personnel and military and police dogs.

Chips, a decorated World War II dog

Bronze monument of Chips, a decorated World War II dog, created by Salt Lake City sculptor Lena Toritch.

She’s happy, too, with the model for the Layton sculpture — Mazzie, the Crismers’ former military contractor German shepherd who saw duty in Kuwait.

“And Jim and Linda, I am amazed how dedicated they are to saving military dogs and promoting that,” Toritch said. “I’m really grateful that they found me and chose me to do this.”

Toritch said she graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in St. Petersburg, Russia. For the past 20 years she has been working out of Young Fine Art Studio with her business partner, sculptor Richard Young.

Lena Toritch

Salt Lake City sculptor Lena Toritch.

Her portfolio includes memorials depicting a Special Operations K9; Chips, a decorated military dog of World War II; golden retriever Bretagne, a famed search dog at the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attack site in New York; and Nash, a K9 for the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

Bretagne, Sept. 11 search dog sculpture

Bronze monument of Bretagne, a search dog who worked at the Twin Towers site after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. The sculpture was created by Salt Lake City sculptor Lena Toritch.

She said her most important project locally is the Utah Law Enforcement Memorial at the Utah Capitol in Salt Lake City. The group of three monuments honor Utah police of the past, present and future, she said.

UHP trooper memorial at Utah Capitol

Bronze monument of a Utah Highway Patrol trooper, created by Salt Lake City sculptor Lena Toritch.

Layton Recreation Director David Price said the city is glad the Crismers picked Toritch.

“She does a beautiful job,” Price said. “We are thrilled that we will have a piece of her work in our park.”

You can reach reporter Mark Shenefelt at mshenefelt@standard.net or 801 625-4224. Follow him on Twitter at @mshenefelt.

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